Friday, October 3, 2014

The Liberal Ideal Versus the Reality

Really, things could not be better for conservatives. Everything about the Obama administration is in ruins. And in a month there will be a midterm election.

Of course if we had a non-partisan media there would be a hurricane of Obama and Reid blaming, just like in the good old days of Blame Bush in 2006. With that kind of wind behind us we might count Democrats in the House in double digits and the Senate in single digits in January.

But our media is composed mainly of Democratic operatives with bylines, so the Obama blaming is kinda muted, just like the Carter blaming back in 1978-79 was all about the notion that you couldn't really blame the president because things were so complicated that nobody could be expected to master them.

Jonah Goldberg has a piece about Obama failure. In the best of all possible worlds
Liberalism, as an ideology, insists that government can do good and great things for the people and the world if the people running the government are smart liberals.
But the people running the government aren't all smart liberals. There are, for example, government unions. There is, for example the fact that the annual dismissal rate for federal government workers is 0.25%, i.e., not one in four, or one in forty, but one in four hundred. So, on Obama's watch, of course
we’ve seen horrifying incompetence, malfeasance, or skullduggery at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the IRS, DOJ, GAO, and HHS. 
Liberals may not like that sort of thing, but, as Jonah says, you have to dance with the girl what brung you. And that means liberals have to dance with the activists, the bureaucrats, and the Daily Show viewers what voted for them.

The problem is quite simple. It is just not enough to talk about hope and change and design a cool system to, e.g., create affordable health care. The question is, what happens when you hit your first brick wall and things start to go wrong?  What do you do then? When health insurance rates go up at double-digit rates after you promised they'd go down. When the Obamacare website is a disaster. When a mere 8 million sign up for Obamacare? When the health care system from CDC downwards botches the first Ebola case in the US?

We know what happens. Nothing. Or the government leaders blame some scapegoat.

When something goes wrong you want to have people empowered to do something about it, to figure out what went wrong, to fix the problems, and to list the lessons learned. But that is not how government works.

You get a high-octane look at this as J├╝rgen Habermas, in a transitional book Legitimation Crisis, 1973, tries to blame "late capitalism" for the problems of the world. He writes about "administrative planning" and "the state's responsibility as a global planning authority" and "limits of administrative capacity". He cannot exclude the idea that the administrative system might allow a "compromise path between competing claims" and allow a "sufficient amount of organizational rationality."

But that's the point. An administrative system is like a mechanical system, only designed for one job. What's needed is an organism with infinite adaptability.

Every piece of legislation amounts to a compromise between the competing claims of the special interests. But then what? Then you have an administrative system cast in concrete to execute on the Compromise of 2010 for the next forever.  Social Security was the Compromise of 1935. Medicare was the Compromise of 1965. The problem is that each of these Compromises have become holy shrines and any attempt to modify them is anathematized as the desecration of the holy place, a sacrilege.

The joke is that nobody expects government to perform. We tolerate an education system that doesn't educate, and welfare system that sinks people into generational dependence and we act as though nothing can be done. But if Apple doesn't bring out new and better iPhones every year with quantum leaps in functionality it's considered a scandal.

The fact is that government just cannot do anything that needs flexibility, adaptability and a quick response to problems. It takes enormous energy just to get it to do the simplest things badly.

The joke is that we have a system that is designed for flexibility, adaptability, and instant response to problems. It is called capitalism.

But the problem is that capitalism doesn't provide a starring role for a ruling class. And for that our liberal masters will never forgive it.

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